Adaptations

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Jun 5 17:10:05 EDT 2002


Here's why I generally don't like movie adaptations of books I like:

1.  I don't need a movie in order to visualize the action of a book.
Therefore, I usually have a "movie" in my head that does not correspond to
the actual film.  This can be fairly disappointing.

2.  Movies must, by necessity, cut out and condense the text of the book.
If they don't, it is EXCRUCIATINGLY boring because I can read the stupid
book with my own internal movie much faster than I can watch it.  But the
people who do the adapting have their own ideas about what the most
important part of the book is, and it doesn't always line up with mine.  So
either I'm watching an "unabridged" movie that is painfully slow and boring,
or I'm watching an eviscerated movie that doesn't capture the essence of the
book *I* read.

But despite this, I can still think of a handful of movie adaptations that I
love.  The reason for this is that I have acceptable solutions to the above
two problems:

1A. Aside from certain basics that are explicit and important to a book, I
don't get huffy over other differences.  For example, if the main character
is a tall blond, I don't want him turned into a short brunette just because
Tom Cruise is easier to work with than Val Kilmer.  But I'm otherwise happy
to see the kind of setting the designers come up with.  (In the case of the
Harry Potter movie, the Gryffindor common room looks exactly the way I
imagined.  Lucky me.)

2A.  As long as a book must be condensed to become a movie, I want it to be
well done.  I want the script to sparkle.  I would rather the scriptwriter
and director and all the other associated personnel captured the spirit of
the movie than adhered to every tiny event.

I adored "Fellowship of the Ring."  Seriously.  I had no complaints about
it.  To me, the series was always this great big adventure set in an even
bigger world that had unlimited imaginative potential.  And that's the movie
I saw.  But I have an acquaintance who did his master's thesis on LotR and
was really disappointed, because he had a very different image of what the
book was all about.  (To him, it was very philosophical and religious.  I
think.)  Same problem with _Name of the Rose_; it's a huge novel about faith
and love and scholarship and Lots Of Books, but the adaptors apparently
didn't think that would sell, so they turned it into a murder mystery.
Another one was "Practical Magic" starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock.
It was based on the novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman.  When I learned
that, I knew there was no way the book was like the movie, because it's not
the kind of thing Hoffman writes.  And I was right; the movie emphasizes the
role of magic and the murder subplot, but the book is actually *about*
something else.  But that "something else" would have been very hard to
film.

Anyway, I think books get turned into movies because producers think they
will be able to make money off them, first.  Sometimes I'd bet a novel's
film rights get purchased solely for some kernel of an idea that's part of
the book.  <coughstarshiptrooperscough>  If they get picked up by people who
care about the text (Peter Jackson, Emma Thompson for "Sense and
Sensibility"), that's when we're more likely to see an actual adaptation of
the novel itself.  Those are the ones I tend to be more interested in.

But, of course, there's no beating reading the actual book.

Melissa Proffitt
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